I've been to a few future-of-news conferences over the years and they're fairly predictable, like most conferences of artists, they quickly focus on money. You would think or hope they'd focus on great new ways to use the technology to further the art, but instead they want to know who's going to pay their salary next year and the year after. Understandably there's a lot of fear among journalists about this.
This podcast interview on Re/Code, a journalist, Peter Kafka, interviewing another journalist, Dan Lyons, about being a tech journalist and satirist, explains better than anything I've read or heard. Journalism has gone through a series of reductions, where expensive older journalists are laid off to be replaced by five cheaper younger journalists. The cycle repeats every ten years. A steady stream of unemployed journalists. And journalism shrinks both in quality and depth. There are fewer journalists around, and more of them rewrite the same press releases from the big tech companies, and their memory of how tech works is always being reset.
I stopped getting invites to future-of-news conferences I guess because my ideas are disharmonious. They generally want the tech industry or governments to guarantee their salaries. So ironically they aren't about the future of news at all, the focus is on preserving the past. Take a box, pick it up and move it from the old place to the new one, while retaining its size and shape.
But news, like everything else in the early 21st century, is networking and being atomized. The central aggregators are disintermediated. It's an inexorable process. If government were to decree it otherwise, new peer-to-peer flows would develop that work the new way, with sources communicating directly with each other without using journalism as the intermediary.
It's an incredibly exciting time to be in news because so much new art will be created in the coming years. The only way to learn how that works is to jump into the news distribution activity, alongside Facebook, and try out ideas, and evolve to create lots of different kinds of algorithms, and let the market decide. That's really the only way that can work. You might be able to get a few dollars from the tech giants and governments, but you still will not be doing the future of news.
But the future-of-news people want to lock it down now, get their stipends, and have a nice career. That's where we're at odds. I don't begrudge them comfort, but I don't want to lose all our futures for that.